A coalition of Massachusetts health advocates and civic leaders is lobbying for a new pool of money, possibly funded by a tax on insurers, that would pay for programs to stem preventable illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease that are fueling medical costs.
Under the plan, insurers would be assessed a tax on what they now pay each year to cover the hospital bills of their subscribers. The fee is similar to one already levied on insurers by the state to pay for childhood vaccines and care for the uninsured.
The group, scheduled to detail its campaign Thursday at the State House, said the initiative should be a key part of lawmakers’ ongoing debate about controlling health care costs.
“The state has its priorities backward,’’ said Brian Rosman, research director for Health Care for All, a consumer group. “We invest so much in treating people who are sick, and we invest so little in preventing people from getting sick in the first place.’’
Rosman said a yearly charge of 0.5 percent on the total each insurer pays for hospital care would raise about $70 million to pay for community-based programs that bolster health, such as improving sidewalks and bicycle lanes and offering healthier foods in child care centers.
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